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President’s Day Weekend 2020

It’s late, and time for bed, but I just wanted to check in.  I got home a few hours ago from a wonderful, fun, relaxing, energizing weekend in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Jeff and I spent the weekend at Champoeg State Park in a little cabin; it was just what I needed.  Here’s to a short work week!

P.S. And a happy belated birthday to my favorite President, Abraham Lincoln.

 

Circus Trip 2018: What I Learned in a Month

August 2018

By the time I was wandering around the Mary Todd Lincoln House in August of 2018, I had been on the road for a month, camping and living out of my car.  I was proud of myself, to be quite honest, because I had imagined all sorts of things going wrong, and having all sorts of meltdowns while parked along the side of the road, and none of that had happened.  I’m being a little dramatic here, but I had worried before I left that I wouldn’t be cut out for the vagabond lifestyle.  Would I be able to do this?

After a month, I felt like I had worked through things.  I felt comfortable being on my own.  I wasn’t freaked out about not having a reservation each night.  I was doing this!  So, to share the knowledge, here’s a few things I learned as a solo woman, road-tripping through the United States.

My car fitted out

  • When in Montana, get gas before you get down to half a tank.  Once, I had more than a half a tank when I departed for my next destination, but given my route, and the distances between towns with gas stations in Montana, I was down to about 20 miles left by the time I saw a gas station!
  • Very few people tent camp in the Midwest.  I was largely alone in the tent section of the campgrounds I went to, as a general rule.

My tent, Mellow Yellow, in Montana

  • Don’t leave your tennis shoes outside at night.  The torrential downpour when I was staying at Boonesboro State Park in Kentucky soaked my tennis shoes through and through, and got them muddy enough that I had to take out the insoles and wash them out in the campground shower.
  • Don’t forget your quarters when you go to do your laundry…
  • Ask the locals for their recommendations on restaurants, hikes, and other places to see.  Even if you don’t have time, you can always put it on the list for next time!

Minnesota Cider – Tea Time Loon Juice – so delicious!

  • Get to your campground before dark.  For safety purposes, of course, but also because it is hard to cook and find your things by the light of a lantern.
  • Know your car.  AKA, if you have a Honda CR-V, don’t open the back doors from the inside without unlocking the doors with the fob.  It sets off the alarm!  Apologies for the early morning wake ups, my fellow campers!
  • Try the local flavor – even if you are saving money by not eating out that often, be sure to check out some of the local fare.  There are fun breweries, good wines, and unique regional dishes all over!

Louisville Hot Brown and a Mint Julep

  • Some of those gadgets are a real lifesaver!  I traveled with an electric cooler that plugged into my car, converters so I could plug regular plugs into the car’s cigarette lighters, rechargeable battery packs, a rechargeable/solar powered lantern, and bug screens for my windows so I could sleep in the car with the windows down on hot nights!  There is so much innovative gear for camping and road trips!
  • Not everybody will be kind, or friendly, or safe.  But most people will. People will definitely look at you funny if you are camping alone.  Just get used to it; they probably don’t mean any harm, and they might even be jealous.

What would you add to the list?

Circus Trip 2018: Abraham Lincoln Birthplace NHP

Day 31, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hodgenville, Kentucky

I have for so long wanted to visit the site where our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln was born.  I have seen where he was a young man, where he was a lawyer, where he was President, and where he died…  It was so humbling to stand at the place where this great man began his life!

Sign Posing!

Lincoln was born here at Sinking Spring Farm (named for the water source) on February 12, 1809; he lived here for the first two years of his life.  His parents, Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln made their living as farmers, and contrary to the usual story, Lincoln didn’t grow up particularly poor, by the standards of the day.  He did move around a lot though, as the family had to leave Sinking Spring Farm after a dispute about the ownership of the land.  They moved to nearby Knob Creek Farm in 1811, when Lincoln was two years old.

The Lincoln family Bible

The birthplace memorial here was completed in 1911, a few years after the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.  A huge marble and granite Memorial Building was built between 1909 and 1911, in Greek and Roman architectural styles.  It has 56 steps up to the building, to represent the 56 years that Lincoln was alive. Sixteen windows on the building and sixteen rosettes on the ceiling represent the fact that he was our nation’s 16th President.  Inside, a symbolic birth cabin gives visitors an idea of what the cabin where Lincoln was born might have looked like.

The symbolic birth cabin was moved to the site when the Memorial Building was constructed, and had to be made smaller to fit inside the building, and to more accurately represent what Lincoln’s first home probably looked like.  At the time the Memorial Building was constructed, many people actually believed that this was the cabin where Lincoln was born.  Later technology allowed them to do dendochronology (tree ring analysis) in 2004 to determine that the cabin was not built until the 1840s, so it could not have been Lincoln’s birthplace.

When I first arrived, it had been pouring down rain, so I hurried into the Visitor’s Center and then hurried over to the Memorial Building.  When I went back outside, the sun had come back out!  I went down the 56 steps of the Memorial Building to check out Sinking Spring, the water feature which gave the farm its name.  Sinking Spring is an underground spring, with an outlet to the surface set down into a hole; this was certainly the first water Abraham Lincoln ever drank!

Knob Creek Farm is also part of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park; it is located ten miles away from Sinking Spring Farm.  Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, this portion of the park was not staffed, so I didn’t get to see inside this cabin.  It was also not original to Lincoln or his family, but belonged to the family of one of the Lincolns’ neighbors.  The young boy who lived in this cabin is thought to have once saved young Abe Lincoln’s life when he fell into Knob Creek.  The cabin was moved here when the historical park was created.  It was peaceful and quiet and interesting to see another place where Lincoln spent time as a child; he lived here from the ages of two to seven.  Another land ownership dispute caused the family’s move to Indiana.

There were several signs posted indicating that Copperhead snakes make their home in the area.  I didn’t see any, but also didn’t go tromping off through the field to the creek!

After leaving Lincoln behind for the day, I made my way to Lexington, Kentucky, where I would be stopping for the night.  I saw a highway sign advertising Wildside Winery and decided to check it out!  They had good wines, and a nice selection of both dry and sweet wines.  I enjoyed talking with my server – it was his first day working at the winery – but he had lived in Brookings, Oregon for eight years, so we had the Pacific Northwest in common!  I purchased four bottles; one was their Wild Duet.  Sadly, they are all long gone now – but they were delicious!

That evening I camped at Boonesboro State Park in Lexington; the first of two nights I would spend there!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Mammoth Cave NP

Day 30, Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

I was excited to visit Mammoth Cave National Park!  I drove down from Louisville for the day and entered the Park on the Flint Ridge Road.  Note: the Park’s website warns visitors to disregard GPS directions, which can take you the wrong way.  My GPS took me this alternate way, but still managed to get me to where I needed to go, with a bonus of seeing a section of the park that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise!

The drawback was that I either somehow missed the entrance sign or there wasn’t one.  I saw a sign on the main road on the way out, but it wasn’t like the typical National Park entrance sign – it left a lot to be desired.  I guess that’s just a reason to go back!

This was the only sign I found!

The Flint Ridge Road takes you by the Mammoth Cave Baptist Church and Cemetery.  The original church was built in 1827; the current building is from 1927.  It is in rough shape, with a hole in the back door, no electricity or other conveniences, and a very old, rustic outhouse in back.  It was very remote, just a few miles from the main Visitor’s Center for the park. I got out and checked it out; the door to the church is not locked, so anyone can go inside.  It was so eerily quiet there, it made me a little nervous…

I wandered the cemetery and read some of the headstones as well.  Floyd Collins is buried in the cemetery.  He died in 1925 after a rock collapse trapped him in Sand Cave, a newly discovered cave nearby; attempts to rescue him made the national news and kept people waiting for word for over two weeks, but ultimately he had died of starvation by the time rescuers reached him.

Sadly the church was vandalized with orange spray paint in September, about a month after my visit.  The trail to go see the entrance to Sand Cave is here too, but I didn’t take the opportunity to hike it.  I’m kicking myself now!

When I got to the Visitor’s Center, I chose to do the Historic Tour.  It was interesting, and explored the long history of cave use.  Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the world with over 400 miles of explored cave passages.

Native Americans used the cave for thousands of years and then stopped.  In the late 1700s, Americans in the area began to use the cave for saltpeter mining; saltpeter is used in the manufacture of gunpowder.  They couldn’t get it anymore from the British due to the Revolutionary War, so local suppliers could make a good profit!

After the war the need for saltpeter dried up so they opened the caves up for commercial tours.  They had used slaves to mine the saltpeter; the slaves learned how to navigate in the caves, which was helpful in their later work as tour guides.  The tour takes you by some of the old saltpeter mining equipment, which was left in the cave after the commercial viability of the venture dried up.

Mammoth Cave was also used for a brief period as a tuberculosis sanitarium – unfortunately it proved ineffective at helping people with tuberculosis.  Total darkness experiments in the cave were also short-lived.

Unfortunately for me, the “Historic” section of the cave isn’t really all that pretty.  This section of the cave has the largest rooms, but there aren’t a lot of beautiful “cave features” that you see in other caves. And you will certainly be disappointed in my photos; it is very dim inside and they don’t let you use flash…  I did enjoy seeing the “graffiti” from the early 1800s; I saw one signature from 1839!

On my next visit I want to do the “Domes and Dripstones Tour”; this tour shows visitors the stalactites and stalagmites, as well as a huge dripstone section called Frozen Niagara, named because it looks like Niagara Falls when it is frozen in the winter.  The Extended Historic Tour is also on my list, because you get to see the stone huts that remain from the period when Mammoth Cave was used as a tuberculosis sanitarium.  That would be cool!

I really enjoyed my visit, but would also love to do more hiking there.  Temperatures were in the 90s with high humidity the day that I visited so I opted not to hike.  It would be fun to stay and camp there too!  You can also float the river, or kayak there!

I stayed that night at the Glendale Campground in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, a convenient jumping off point for my explorations the next day!  This family owned campground was only $20, and my campsite was right near a pond where a Green Heron was fishing!

Circus Trip 2018: Churchill Downs

Day 29, Monday, August 13, 2018

Louisville, Kentucky

Most years, I sit in my living room on the first Saturday in May and watch the Kentucky Derby on TV.  Live from Churchill Downs, the field of colts and a few fillies attempt to become the winner of the Derby and have a chance at winning the Triple Crown, a title which has become the most prestigious in horse racing.  The Kentucky Derby is the first race of the Triple Crown, which also contains the Preakness and the Belmont, raced at other tracks around the country over a five week stretch.

I have always wanted to visit Churchill Downs, especially on Derby Day, to see the crazy hats and feel the excitement of race day!  I spent a few days in Louisville and had a chance to visit the racetrack, although there wasn’t any racing going on that day.  For $15, you can visit the track’s museum and get a tour of the track.  Considering that pre-sale event prices to the infield for the Kentucky Derby start at $65 and $85 on the day of the race, $15 is pretty good!  Of course, other racing days at Churchill Downs aren’t so expensive, so a typical day at the track can be pretty affordable if you aren’t betting and losing!  One day, I will be there on Derby Day!

Churchill Downs opened in 1875; after Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. (William Clark’s grandson) leased the land from his uncles John and Henry Churchill, a prominent Louisville family for many years.  Clark sold subscriptions to the racing club, and used the money to develop the track.  Racing has occurred here since that time, with a number of changes to the track over the years.  The first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875, which means that 2020’s Derby will be the 146th running!

The iconic twin spires on the grandstands weren’t placed until 1895, but have survived weather events since that time, including a tornado that damaged the stables.  The grandstands seat about 50,000, but it is standing room only on the infield on Derby Day and the crowds can grow to almost 170,000 people!

My tour ticket included an interesting movie on the history of the track.  They usher you into a large oval shaped room, and you sit on swivel stools to watch the film, which is projected on the wall above you all around the oval room.  You can swivel on your stool to get a better view of the scenes, and because it is above you, nobody’s head is in the way!  Then the docent took us out to the track – you get to see the grandstands, the saddling area, the track, the winner’s circle and the other views you see on television when you watch the Derby on TV.  They have plaques showing all of the names of the Kentucky Derby winners over the years, and marking the names of those who won the Triple Crown.  Of the 146 winners of the Derby, only thirteen of them have also won the Triple Crown.  Three of the Derby winners have been fillies.

The tour was a bit canned; they clearly have memorized a script and move the tour groups along pretty quickly, but it was really interesting to see the track!  The museum was cool too, with exhibits on the history of the track and the horses that have raced there.  They had a display of hats and the tradition of crazy hats at the Derby, a display of the horseshoes that race horses wear, and an exhibit on the history of African Americans in the Churchill Downs racing industry.  Thirteen of the fifteen horses in the first Kentucky Derby were ridden by African American jockeys, and fifteen of the first twenty-eight Derbies were won by black jockeys.  Of course, it took a long time for them to be recognized for these accomplishments.

One of the Derby’s three winning fillies

After the tour, I did enjoy the restaurant at the track.  They had a special where you could try a Mint Julep and keep the commemorative glass (which actually turned out to be a Kentucky Oaks stemless wine glass, rather than a traditional mint julep cup, but I liked that too).  I use it all the time!  I learned that I’m not a fan of Mint Juleps – I don’t think I’ll ever be a Bourbon girl…  I did learn that I love Louisville Hot Brown though!  It was a very messy sandwich, with Texas toast, turkey, bacon, tomato, cheeses and herbs all cooked together in a casserole dish, and it was so delicious!  The one at Churchill Downs was so full of gooey goodness I didn’t even know it was supposed to be a sandwich until I looked up the recipe.  I haven’t had it since, but maybe I should try to make it at home sometime!

Louisville Hot Brown and a Mint Julep

After my visit to the track, I drove around Louisville to check out some of the historic homes, and then went back to my campground to relax at the pool.  It was a fun day!

The pool at the Louisville KOA

 

 

 

Farewell to a Decade!

2019 is almost over, and with it we are leaving behind another decade.  Like every year, it has had its ups and downs, but sadly this year they were overshadowed by losing my Dad.  There were other joys and experiences, but between working through my grief and starting my new job, the happy times were just more subdued this year, and that’s okay.

  1. Dad died suddenly in February.  It has been hard without him; never having had the opportunity to say goodbye or tell him I love him one more time.  He left behind a lot of estate and probate stuff for my mom to work through, which is difficult to face when you are grieving.  All the milestones are new ones in our life without him.
  2. I did a 15K this year in March with my friends.  I didn’t train, as it was less than a month after dad died, but I finished.  My time with my friends is dear to me; they are a lifeline when I need them most. 
  3. Mom and I took a few days away in March and flew down to Tucson.  It was a nice mother-daughter trip, with some laughter, and definitely some tears, with both of us grieving. 
  4. I started a new job in March.  There’s a learning curve, and there was some drama in the beginning (not my drama!), but things there are good; the people are kind and reasonable and I feel valued.
  5. I visited Astoria in May; I met Jeff and the kids there for a Memorial Day long weekend of fun.  It was nice to check the place out and see some familiar places and some new ones.  Making new memories is always good! 
  6. I visited Westport, on the coast of Washington, in June with friends.  I had never been there.  The weather was cool and sort of rainy, which made for less than ideal camping weather, but we had fun checking out the lighthouse, grilling some delicious food, and walking the beach. I added a ton of sand dollars to my collection! 
  7. In July, Jeff and the kids and I took a whirlwind trip down to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. It was so much fun camping and hiking and checking out the waterfalls! Lassen is definitely a place I want to get back to soon.

    Lassen Volcanic National Park

  8. I didn’t do much hiking this summer because I was experiencing a lot of pain in my belly, but I did go on a couple of hikes.  My hike to Watson Lakes with Lelani was so much fun!
  9. Jeff and I met near Salem, Oregon on Labor Day weekend for a few days.  We checked out the Oregon State Hospital Museum, the Salem Farmer’s Market, and enjoyed our time together.  We also took a day to hike Silver Falls State Park, and saw all the beautiful waterfalls!  What an amazing experience! 
  10. In October, my girlfriends and I did a 10K in town.  It was fun to support a great charity and get some exercise as well!
  11. On December 23, I had a total abdominal hysterectomy.  I have been having pain and other troublesome symptoms for years, so it was time, but it was still scary to be wheeled into the operating room that morning!  My surgeon and nursing team were awesome and everything went smoothly.  My family came to the rescue, setting me up at home and taking care of me for the first several days.  My uterus and its benign fibroid tumors weighed over 5 pounds (a healthy uterus should weigh about 2-4 ounces) – 5 pounds of extra stuff in my belly causing havoc!  I am still healing, and moving pretty slow right now, but am already feeling relief from my symptoms and can tell I will be feeling better in no time! 

2020 is a whole new decade, and one that should have some new beginnings for me.  I’ll be able to spend more time with Jeff and the kids, and once I recover from my surgery, I’ll be able to get back to my active life!  Here’s to a lot of good things coming soon!

May the New Year bring you all peace and joy.

 

Circus Trip 2018: Knox College and The Lincoln/Douglas Debates

Day 19 & 20, Friday, August 3, 2018 – Saturday, August 4, 2018

I spent the night in Galesburg, Illinois, a small town known for, well, being a small town? I camped at the Allison Campground at Lake Storey Recreational Area, a city park with a lot of RV’s and well, me. I was the only tent camper in a huge field of campsites. I paid my $16.00 and drove out into the field to my choice of sites!  There is a lake nearby in the park, maybe one day I will make it back there to check it out!

That evening, I chatted on the phone with friends, and enjoyed one of my Black Tea Infused Ciders from Four Daughters Winery. I also saw my very first cicada! Mind you, I have heard cicadas a lot when I have traveled in the Midwest, as they are a staple of summer. But they tend to be hidden, and not out in the open, or hanging out on the leg of my picnic table!

Galesburg is the site of one of the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858. Can you believe it!? They debated on the front steps of one of the buildings of Knox College, which faces out toward the center of town.  The founders of Galesburg and Knox College were staunchly anti-slavery, so it ended up being the perfect place for Lincoln to challenge Douglas’ views on slavery.

It’s an easy place to get to, so after I packed up camp the next morning, I checked it out. There is a plaque on the wall of the Old Main’s exterior, but otherwise you would have no idea of the history that happened here. Old Main is the only building on the Knox College campus that still exists from the time when Lincoln and Douglas debated here.  Fun fact: According to historical accounts, Lincoln climbed through a window of the Old Main building to get to the debate platform, and was reported to have said, “at last I have gone through college.”

It was a good feeling to be standing on this spot, but strangely, there was no one else around on this Saturday morning in early August. Where were all the throngs of tourists wanting to see Lincoln sites? Sigh… I guess sometimes history goes unnoticed…

After seeing Knox College, I headed over to another little visited site in Galesburg; the place where Carl Sandburg was born. Carl Sandburg isn’t exactly a famous author these days, but at one time he was. He wrote poetry, and political discourse, and a giant, fat, multi-volume tome on Abraham Lincoln. So he has to be cool, even though I will admit to never having read his Lincoln biography. One day…  I’ll share my visit to the Sandburg home next!